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November 25 through 28 - Wears Valley (Cove Creek RV), Pigeon Forge (Dollywood), and Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Typically, when we visit this area, we stay at the KOA campground in Townsend. It's one of the nicest campgrounds in the area, but it's a bit pricey (we paid almost $70 this Summer for riverside sites), and if you don't plan to use their awesome amenities, it's hard to justify.

On this particular trip, our plan was to spend two full days at Dollywood, and little time at the campground. So, Daddy spent several hours researching campgrounds in the area, even Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. He found some prospects, but most were booked-up through the holiday weekend. Then, he found Cove Creek RV Resorts and Rentals, a place that looked like an ideal place to camp in Wears Valley between Townsend and Pigeon Forge. What's more, the rate was an acceptable $33.00. It sounded great. 

Here is what their website said: (the pictures are ours - please read on afterward)
"At Cove Creek RV Resort choose sites offering personal outdoor gazebos with lounging areas and outdoor fireplaces or perhaps you would prefer to be creek-side so the lull of the babbling waters can soothe you to sleep at night. Whichever you choose Cove Creek RV Resort will not disappoint. We offer a first-class clubhouse, bathhouse, workout facilities, onsite laundry facilities, a game room, an outdoor pool and outdoor recreation, a conference center as well as an onsite fishing pond.

Join us at Cove Creek RV Resort & Rentals for your next camping trip to the Smokies. Close enough to all the Pigeon Forge attractions yet far enough away for you to enjoy the quietness and breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains in the quaint area of Wears Valley. Indulge in our first class amenities and service. Cove Creek RV Resort . . . luxury awaits.

We are working to make the campground better, please bear with us as we are 75% complete.
Please enjoy our reduced summer rates as compensation for any minor disruption."

Ok, the key here is the last sentence of the above quote. It gives you the impression that the campground is undergoing some "improvements", and it's almost done. In fact further investigation makes it appear as thou this was published in early Summer (June). So one might assume, as I did, this nice luxury campground is probably nearing completion by November. The pictures were great, but there were suspiciously very few pictures to view. Finally, I cast all caution aside and booked three consecutive nights. Shame on me.

When we arrived at Cove Creek RV, the office was dark, but our site was identified on a map taped to the inside of the front door's window. As we pulled through the park on the way, I began to feel as though I'd been misled. I was getting peeved. The first sign we saw said something to the effect of "Buy your own RV Site starting at $69,000". I asked myself, when is $69,000 too much to pay for a concrete pad in a pasture. The sites are narrow, and nothing was really finished. Our site was at the end of a row. It faced a gravel drive, some unfinished pads, some exposed sewer pipes, a dumpster, construction equipment, and a storage warehouse behind an old chain-link fence. The pictures below tell the story.

In all fairness, that last sentence on their home page does provide a bit of a disclaimer that warns of the campground's condition, and there is a nice looking pool and exercise room with four pieces of equipment, and Wears Valley is beautiful, and it is convenient to Pigeon Forge, and it was just $33 a night, and we really didn't spend anytime there during the day, and the site was pretty level, so I'll give them a break. I'd have probably stayed here in the same situation had I known the truth in advance, but I'm most offended by the website's misrepresentation of the camping facility and its surroundings. I do think that someday this will be a very nice "RV Park". I doubt you'll be able to rent a site for $33, and maybe someday in the far far distant future, their sites may also be worth $69,000, but I'm not holding my breath. Here are some more pictures of the RV park. The "Lodge" was never open while we were at the park, so we didn't get pictures there.  Scroll down for our two days at Dollywood.

Two Days of Dollywood
The morning after arriving at Cove Creek RV in Wears Valley, we headed out for a hardy early lunch at No Way Jose's Pigeon Forge location, then on to Dollywood. It had rained all morning, and we were hopeful that the crowds might be a little smaller. When we arrived, the crowds were minimal, but after waiting in line for the Mystery Mine for about 20 minutes, they closed it for repairs just as we were about to get on, That's ok, because we still had a blast.

We bought Dollywood season passes last Christmas, and have tried our best to get our money's worth. For a single days' visit, Dollywood is very expensive, hardly a value, especially with four kids. However, it's pretty inexpensive to upgrade it to a season pass which gets everyone in for free for the next 12 months (or from before Christmas through Christmas of the following year). If you spend a few bucks extra, you can upgrade one of those passes to a Gold Pass. Gold Pass holders pay no parking ($10), and receive a 10% discount on everything in the park. This year, we have been to Dollywood many times, and in all honesty, we still haven't done everything. Yes, Dollywood can be expensive, but it can also be an incredible value. If you've never been, wipe those images of a cheap fair atmosphere. Dollywood is as nice a place you'll ever visit. For kids it's awesome, for grown-ups, it's better than Disney. This time of year, millions of Christmas lights sparkle all over the park, and a variety of seasonal musicals and live bands also contribute to the holiday spirit. WE LOVE DOLLYWOOD!


November 12 through 14 - McKinney Campground, Lake Allatoona - Cartersville/Acworth, GA
We visited McKinney campground several times through the Summer, mostly because of its great lakeside campsites. On most past visits, we brought Paw Paw's fishing boat, and spent much of our time on the water. We also like to visit Red Top Mountain State Park while we're camping here. It's just around the corner, accessible by boat, and often hosts events that are fun for the entire family. We lso enjoy rockhounding at McKinney Campground, finding some very interesting fossils and quartz of various colors.

On this particular visit, we chose not to bring the boat. The weather was turning cool, and the water level was very low. What drew us to McKinney this time was a meteor shower (Leonid), and lots of new rocks and fossils exposed that are typically under water. When we got up on Saturday morning, there was a beautiful fog churning and swirling just above the surface of the water. It took quite a long while for the sun to burn off the vapor revealing the fall colors and campfires across the water. The shoreline looked like a Martian landscape because the water level is so low. This is the effect of several weeks of drought, and the Corps of Engineers' practice of lowering level in the Fall in order to prepare for the following season's rains. We took several walks along the lakeshore surveying the rocks. We'd hoped for more variety of minerals, but collected mostly what we have found in the past, quartz with fossil inclusions and various shades of red, pink, and purple stains from the mineral-rich clay and soil. We did find a couple of Crinoid Stem fossils, one of which looked like it had been made into a bead long long ago. Artifact? I think so.

In the evenings, we watched for meteors (without much luck) and enjoyed a roaring fire. We were visited by a very friendly cat hat wanted to come home with us, but Daddy and Mommy said we had just the right number of cats right now. Our friend, Calbert spent one might, and his mom Pamba visited when she came to pick him up the next day. As usual, it was a very fun and relaxing weekend with lots of little events that made it special.

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